A Healthy Lunch at Ottolenghi

Last Saturday’s rain was relentless. My parents were here from New York and my dad left my mom and I alone to spend the day together (ie – he didn’t want to be dragged around the shops!). So we were out and about, dodging puddles and rain spray from cars, trying on silly glasses and enjoying some rare mother-daughter time.

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In the Spring, Jorge and I were lured in to Ottolenghi on Motcomb Street by the piles of baked goods beckoning us from the windows to find plates of delicious and colorful salads filling the counters inside.

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That warm and sunny day, we sat outdoors in the small quiet courtyard sipping fennel soup and dipping in pieces of fresh bread. So Ottolenghi popped into my mind again as a place to take my mom when we were in the area hunting for lunch.

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Not only is it healthy, but it’s also delicious.

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It’s a tiny little place so they only have one big communal table inside. We managed to get a seat with a few fellow diners and ended up shuffling around to fit more people in. Sitting outside would have been preferable but unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans and everything was soaked. While we surveyed the menu, we started with some tasty juice – carrot, apple and ginger – which was tangy and sweet and refreshing.

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The menu might change every day. It had a date on top. Also, they didn’t have the fennel soup we enjoyed before, so we looked over our options.

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One of the deals was that you choose a main and two salads. I was going to go with the croquettes but they had run out so I chose the “lamb, pistachio and bulgur kebab with green tahini sauce and parsley”. My salads were “butterbean hummus with dukkah, basil, rose petals and parsley” and “grilled fennel and courgettes with sweet pistachio relish, dill, lemon, goats cheese and watercress”.

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My mom also had the lamb dish but for salads she chose “basmati and wild rice with sultanas, nuts, lemon, chilli, spring onions and herbs” and “roasted aubergine with saffron yogurt, hazelnut, pomegranate seeds and mixed herbs”.

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All of it was filling and delicious. The only disappointing thing was that we were too full for dessert!

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It was time to head back into the rain. But there’s always a next time! Next time, dessert will be mine!

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Where’s your favourite restaurant in London for healthy food?

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A Scandinavian Supper at Madsen

There are so many restaurants in London I sometimes feel a bit guilty going back to the same one twice, let alone three or four times, but there are a few we can’t stay away from and Madsen is one of them!

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Not only is this South Ken gem incredibly close to home, it serves up some delicious Scandinavian treats that combine interesting ingredients (as you’ll see in our meals below) and they switch up their selective menu so there’s always something new to try.

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Jorge and I first ate at Madsen about a year ago on a Twitter recommendation from an LLO reader (thank you!) and last week was probably our fourth visit. As usual, it didn’t disappoint.

He had a Danish beer and I started out with some elderflower juice – a perfect refreshing drink for Summer.

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As a starter, we shared a delicious Nordic salad full of different textures: mixed leaves, cauliflower flakes, roasted hazelnuts, pomegranate and Västerbotten cheese with an apple cider vinaigrette. Yum!

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They also brought out a few slices of bread, which tasted freshly baked and with what I think may have been caraway seeds and butter with a bit of sea salt to spread on top.

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For a main, I went for the “Lightly salt-cured chicken breast from the grill garnished with a tomato, mint and pickled candy beets salad. Served with a buttery jus.” It came with what we found out was baked mango!

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Jorge had the grilled rump steak beef rump steak served with grilled tomato, blackberry sauce and a mild wild garlic purée.

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The only disappointment this time around was that there were no chocolate desserts on the menu! The one we had on our first trip (Swedish sticky chocolate cake topped with orange ganache and Madsen’s lingonberry ice cream) was delicious! But we decided to go for scoops of vanilla ice cream with hot fudge from the kid’s menu.

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The snapdragons on each table reminded me of our garden when we were kids. I made Jorge open its mouth.

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Oh, the little things…

Madsen: A Scandinavian Restaurant in London

Photo credit: http://www.ilovemygrub.com/restaurant/reviews/2010/madsen.html

In search of something different, I asked you lovely followers on Twitter for some Scandinavian restaurant recommendations in London.

Your recommendations?

For the simple reason that it was closest to home and London is like Winter right now, Jorge and I opted for Madsen, a very good suggestion indeed. And actually, quite a lovely place for a date. It’s cosy inside, warm but not too warm with a glowing ambiance from all the tea light candles in their little red holders. The waiter was friendly and the food was beautifully presented and delicious. Also, we sat by a window, which made for good conversation whilst people watching and noticed the blankets folded over the backs of the chairs at the tables outdoors. A nice touch.

I took a few (very poor quality) iPhone photos (which, keep in mind, really, really do it no justice…but better than none!):

We ordered a few glasses of red wine and settled into an amazing starter that included lots of salmon, pine nuts, an orange slice, a tasty sauce and a quiche. Don’t ask me what it was called because it’s not on the menu online, but yum.

For a main, Jorge had:
Danish “Frikadeller” – £13.50 – pork and veal meatballs with traditional red cabbage and gravy

 I ordered:
Slow roasted pork belly with crackling – £15.95 – on a compote of baked Jerusalem artichokes and apples served with parsnip chips and rosemary sauce

 We shared some Mashed potatoes with celeriac:

And indulged in a bit of dessert because it sounded too mouth-wateringly yummy to turn down:

Swedish Kladdkaka – £ 5.95
Swedish sticky chocolate cake topped with orange ganache and Madsen’s lingonberry ice cream

Total spent ≈ £68
Worth it? Definitely. We will be back.

Location: 
Madsen
20 Old Brompton Road
LONDON
SW7 3DL
Tube: South Kensington

http://www.madsenrestaurant.com

I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the other suggestions on Twitter. Anyone been to Fika, Nordic Bar or Scandinavian Kitchen? Worth a visit?

London Art Spot: Orly Orbach

Dark washes and black pen and ink techniques lend a slightly haunting, mysterious atmosphere to a large part of Orly Orbach’s otherworldly portfolio. Her illustrations often tell a story and have been featured regularly in Ambit magazine among other publications. She has also produced work for theatre productions and album covers.

A Royal College of Art graduate, Orly has spent a great deal of her professional time with communities, allowing them to connect with and interact with her art. She has completed quite a few residencies in which she engaged with young people and encouraged them to embrace creativity as a form of self-expression.

For this week’s London Art Spot, Orly talks more about her residency experiences including time at Sceaux Gardens and why it was the most fulfilling, shares a list of authors that inspires her creativity, and tells us about her involvement in London’s theatre and film industry.

LLO: Which aspects of London life most influence your creativity and in what way?
OO: What I really love about london is the diverse communities and the freedom to be different. It is such a free thinking place where you don’t have to fit in; there are multitudes of dress codes and styles. And you get to meet such a broad range of people. That certainly has an influence on my work.

LLO: Give us a brief introduction to your technique, the materials you prefer to work with and your method of approach to an idea.
OO: I like to treat every project like a new learning experience, find subject matters that I can relate to, allow myself to engage with themes on a personal level, and be experimental and think openly about each project I take. I find it important to allow chance into my work, and this can happen by being playful with mark-making, and in cases of collaborative projects, to allow other voices and ideas to lead me to places I did not expect. I like working with inks because of the way the marks flow and seem to posses their own direction, which I only partially try to control and shape. I like the flexibility of inks, and the permanence of the mark once they dry.  And I also like crayons and chinagraphs, and any other drawing material.

LLO: Your art seems to tell stories and dig under the surface of things. Are you influenced by the written word? If so, which authors or stories are especially important to you?
OO: There are lots of authors that are important to me, some of which are anonymous. For instance I have a collection of folk stories from around the world that never seems to have authors, only translators. I like reading about myths and often browse anthropology books for inspiration. As much of my work is about the interpretation of experience, I find endless inspiration in these resources. I also like theatre technique books and find them relevant. When it comes to fiction, I have lots of favourite authors, especially Russian and Jewish authors, and women writers have helped me regain a sense of magic when I lose inspiration, in particular Jeanette Winterson, Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood. I love good poetry, and get sent a lot of very visual and visceral poems by Ambit magazine to illustrate.

LLO: “Haunting”, “dark”, “moody”, “mysterious” and “otherworldly” are all words that have been used to describe your work. Would you agree? Where does this darkness stem from?
OO: I want my work to be ‘otherworldly’, simply because when I make work I am trying to connect to other worlds. I think of the history of stories and image-making and inevitably I make work that comes from somewhere deeper within myself. Perhaps I make work for the past rather than the present, which is why it seems haunting. I don’t wish to make ‘dark’ work intentionally, and in fact, I don’t like ‘dark’ work that sets out to be shocking or aims to provoke an audience. The work I make is about trying to connect with something authentic, and if it happens to be moody and haunting it probably just shows my aesthetic sensibility. I personally do like to be haunted by high-quality works and ideas, and hope my work has some kind of authentic presence.

LLO: You have also worked with children on positive community projects like the “Wishing Wall” after the fire at Sceaux Gardens in South London. What was the purpose of the wishing wall? How does your art help to build a stronger community?
OO: My idea for the Sceaux Gardens residency was to use storytelling activities as a way of bringing people together. The project was called Making Play, and I thought we could play with fiction to create new worlds and reimagine the local neighbourhood, through small interventions, art activities etc. The incident of the fire happened at the very beginning of the residency. It was impossible to switch off from reality and play with fiction under these circumstances, so eventually I found a way to address the issue by asking local residents to help me create a mural. It’s a complicated event, but in short, the idea was to make something collaborative that allows people to say what they think, discuss ideas they have about how to improve their neighbourhood, to open communication between them and the council, and very importantly- to note down and acknowledge every single idea, and to do all of this in a way that is visually presentable without being too ‘pretty’, as it did not feel right to make something that is too decorative for the site, as I did not wish the image to distract us from the reality of the situation. My role was to find means of expression, rather than directly make the artwork. The local children did that, and they are quite proud of their work.

LLO: Tell us a bit about your involvement in London’s theatre and film industries.
OO: I have always found the theatre to be a very creative environment, and have worked with script-writers, directors, performers and musicians since I was a student. I see the theatre as an open classroom, and have borrowed much from rehearsal techniques used by performers. One of the best things about rehearsal is that they allow the actor to not know, to take chances and follow their instincts. The visual art world suffers from having to know too much, and I think artists are constantly writing applications, blurbs, reading art theory books and are busy justifying themselves verbally. There is also a pressure to come up with a ‘final piece’ straight away. So I find it inspiring see actors dedicating time to rehearsals, improvising and playing. Most recently I worked on the film Island by Tailormade Productions, and was impressed by the research methods used by the creative team, and how they integrated art into the whole film making process.

LLO: Which image, project or moment of your artistic career are you most proud of so far and why?
OO: The last three residencies have been huge learning experiences, and I think i have achieved a lot through them (-the Making Play residency, the Creative-Partnership residency and the Museums Sheffield project). I felt a moment of achievement when i visited Museums Sheffield on the last week of the exhibition and chanced upon a group of young people playing the floor-vinyl game and using the artwork. I think I’ve found myself through the Sceaux Gardens Making Play residency, although I felt lost there most of the time. I’ve learned so much from that experience, and from the people and children I worked with, especially Lauren, the family officer, who taught me a lot about the importance of the social response to art, rather than the visual effect.

LLO: You’ve done quite a few site-specific projects. Which was the most fulfilling? Anywhere special in London that you’d love to design a piece for?
OO: I think the Sceaux Gardens project was the most fulfilling. It was a long-term project that allowed me to get to know people gradually and test ideas before making site-specific artwork with the local community. It was supported by the South London Gallery, that has a very forward thinking and socially minded education team. It’s not often you get to really make connections with people and make work on that level, and the project was challenging and for that reason fulfilling as well.

There are a few dream-locations I would like to make work for, and I would especially like to make work within my local borough at some point in the near future.

LLO: Other London-based artists you admire?
OO: Lots. I love Elly Thomas’s sculptures and ink drawings, and was especially inspired after a recent visit to her studio in North London.

LLO: What are you working on now?
OO: I am currently working on a commission for the London Transport Museum, collaborating with young people from West London to create artwork for a bus-shelter in South Kensington, themed around journeys. This should be really fun to do.

Thanks Orly!

For more from Orly, check out her website.

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

London Art Spot: Fabienne Henry

 

Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Ireland, Canada and the UK. Sounds like a holiday wish list, but it’s actually all of the countries where this week’s featured artist Fabienne Henry has lived. Originally from Paris, she’s lived outside of France for most of her life.

After studying Law in Paris, Fabienne practised only for a few months. Law doesn’t travel very well. She lectured in Law for a while, spent some time as a French teacher and then a magazine editor (why not?) before settling into her current career as a freelance writer. As you can see from her creative images below, she is also a keen, self-taught photographer.

Living in London since last summer, Fabienne finds every stroll she takes and every event she attends a true delight. (It is London, after all.) However, she’s also very nostalgic of her time in Vancouver.  Ideally, the two cities would bump heads and Fabienne would live in Vancouver with the cultural aspect and the eccentricity of London.

For this week’s London Art Spot, she tells us about her blog “Lost & Found in London”, about the popularity of a certain piece of flour-less chocolate cake and shares photos of a woman eating ice cream in a burqa.

“Primrose Hill”  

LLO: Where are you from originally and how and when did you end up in London?
FH:
I’m originally from France but I grew up in Africa. I went to university in Paris and then went to Dublin to improve my English. I ended up staying there for eight years since I met a lovely Irish man who became my husband. We moved to Vancouver in 2003 and came back to Europe after three great years in BBC (Beautiful British Columbia). We landed in Yorkshire first, which was a culture shock for a city slicker. Thankfully, a work opportunity came up in London and we moved to the city in the summer 2009. 

“Brompton Cemetery”  

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
FH:
There is always something happening in London. I think that Londoners are very creative in many aspects of their lives: in the way they dress, in their food, in their hobbies… Plus London is so cosmopolitan; there are many different influences everywhere you look. How can you not feel inspired or creative when you live in London? 

“Garlic”

LLO: Do you remember when you first fell in love with photography and how has your style evolved since then?
FH:
I think I became obsessed with photography in my early teens. I was taking pictures mostly of family events and friends. I used to love that moment when I went to collect my film rolls at the photo shop. A moment of expectations that’s lost to digital nowadays. When I was 16 I bought a SLR Canon EOS with 2 different lenses and I started to take shots of almost everything. It was a costly hobby back then. Now I still photograph about everything and I mostly enjoy shooting unusual places or situations in London, Paris, Brittany, my daughter and food. 


“Field Game in Yorkshire Lavender, Terrington, North Yorkshire” 

LLO: Tell us about your blog, Lost & Found in London, and how you came up about the idea.
FH:
 I started blogging in 2004 when I was living in Canada. It was the beginning of the blog phenomenon back then and I loved this idea of endless possibilities. Plus there was so much to tell about life in Vancouver. Then I moved to Yorkshire and the blog became “Lost in Yorkshire”. I took a different angle: as you can imagine it wasn’t as fun or exotic to live in the middle of Yorkshire. For me anyway. My posts turned towards the cultural differences between France and England. A little bit like Stephen Clarke’s A year in the Merde reversed! Thankfully, Yorkshire is a beautiful place (no cynicism here) and I was able to illustrate my posts with nice shots of the Dales and the numerous National Trust Gardens (the English really love their gardens). When I moved to London, I needed a celebrating change so the blog became known as “Lost & Found in London” and I now enjoy writing and posting photos about my adventures in this great city. 

“Palisades, Brittany, France” 

LLO: What is your most popular “find” according to your blog or Flickr stats?
FH:
 My most popular picture on Flickr at the moment is a close-up on a flour less chocolate cake. Probably tagging with “chocolate” helped!

On my blog, the most popular posts are the ones where I speak about British clichés and also my twice monthly guessing game – “la devinette du mercredi”. I post a photo where one has to guess what it is or where it was taken.

LLO: With all of your travel, living in so many different countries and having multiple talents from photography to writing to teaching, what do you ultimately see yourself doing?
FH:
Moving around makes it difficult to adapt to a steady professional life. Hopefully this time we’ll stay a bit longer in London so I would be able to develop my taste for freelance journalism. I would love to write regular articles for papers or internet sites as I’m doing right now, but not as frequently as I wish to.

“Amazing Light in Vancouver” 

LLO: Share a photo with a great story behind it and tell us about it?
FH:
 Last August, I was wandering in the Southbank when I captured this scene:


I found these shots amusing and interesting because in France at the time was the heated public debate about the possibility of the burqa ban. It was a way of speaking about it on a lighter note. When you think about it, eating ice cream with a burqa on is not the simplest task!

“Molly on the Beach” 

LLO: Where is your favourite place in London to take your camera?
FH:
 I always have my DSLR with me at the weekend, and a smaller camera anytime in my bag. Basically all of London is a playground paradise for photographers. If I had to choose a place I’d say may be the South Bank.

“Ballerina” 

LLO: Is there somewhere in London that you go to get a taste of Paris?
FH:
 Paris and London are really two different cities in many ways, especially from the architectural point of view. From that perspective it’s difficult to compare the two. Although sometimes when I take a walk on the riverbank or when I cross a bridge I can catch some kind of Paris feeling. If you refer to the French atmosphere, then head straight to South Ken: you’ll feel that sometimes that French is the primary language over there. This is definitely the French quarter with the Embassy, the lycée, the shops and the French Cultural Centre.

“Prison Break @ Borough Market” 

LLO: Show us you favourite London image you’ve captured so far.
FH:
I like the colours and the few iconic London items on it.

Thanks Fabienne! 

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.